LOS ANGELES If America was known as the sleeping giant, one wouldn't be able tell from watching the many Christian students nationwide, who woke up early this morning, pray for their campuses, school faculty, and the nation during the 16th annual See You at the Pole (SYATP) event.
Around 100,000 students from the Northern and Central California, Nevada, and Hawaii observed the event at their local campuses, according to Joe Broussard, regional director of Fellowship Christian Athletes which coordinates SYATP on many high schools and middle schools across the country.
Broussard said what he enjoyed most about the prayer gatherings at Clark Middle School and Clovis High School in Clovis, Calif., was that all the Christian clubs on each campus were able to come together for a common cause.
"No one is waving their banner. Christian students came together under the banner of Christ," he said. "They were very united like no other time."
Unity and peace were themes also evident in SYATP rallies at other schools.
Students at Cabrillo High School in Long Beach, Calif., prayed for campus safety and peace after racial tensions between Hispanics and African-Americans on the campus caused gang conflicts that led to a fellow student's death last year. The victim was a member of the Youth for Christ club on campus and regularly attended Bible study meetings, reported Frieda Mariner of Youth for Christ in Los Angeles, to the Christian Post.
But there were no conflicts during the gathering, according to Mariner, who attended SYATP rallies at four different schools.
"There was unity," she said, noting that students sang songs together at the event. "This will help them to be a light on their campus."
At some schools, students leading the events asked participants to break into small groups to pray not only for their campuses and school administrative staff but for victims of Hurricane Katrina and Rita.
Broussard, who watched a group of 75 students at Clark Middle School and a group of 200 or more students at Clovis High School, pray out loud to God commended them for their boldness.
"They could have stayed home and prayed in their closet," he told the Christian Post. "[But] this was their chance to publicly proclaim their faith."
Roseann Alva, director of FCA in the San Diego East County area, said she thinks the gatherings will have a positive impact on both participants and passers-by.
"It's going to make kids ask questions," Alva told the Christian Post. "They will ask, 'I saw you this morning, what were you guys doing out there?'"
Alva, who observed a group of 160 students participate in SYATP at West Hills High School in Santee, Calif., recalled that after prayer, students recited the Pledge of Allegiance and "were very loud when it came to the part 'under God."
She expressed grief that a federal judge ruled last week that the Pledge was unconstitutional because it contains the words "under God."
"It's really sad," said Alva, also referring to other efforts to remove public references to God such as the Ten Commandments. "It's tearing down the foundation of our country. It's taking away our freedom."
"When there's tragedy, people wonder why. They kind of blame God but they are taking Him out of so many things," said Alva.
SYATP began with a small gathering of about 10 students at a Texas high school in 1990. Last year, more than 2 million teens took part in all 50 states and from 20 countries worldwide.
This year's theme is "PRAY: call 2 me" based on Jeremiah 33:3, where God says, Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know" (NASB).
Post-SYATP rallies are expected to be held Wednesday night.
More information on See You at the Pole can be found at: www.syatp.org.